Face transplants, like most organ transplants, have a limited timespan. In this case, a face transplant from 2013 is clearly deteriorating to the point the patient must confront the prospect of reverting to her earlier disfigurement.
Her body is rejecting a transplanted face — and one solution is unthinkable
Carmen Blandin Tarleton does not want to go backward. She is fighting for a third face.
Tarleton, 12 years removed from her estranged husband’s attack with a baseball bat and lye that burned most of her body, gained some of her life back after dozens of surgeries and a 2013 face transplant. She could play the piano. And a synthetic cornea helped her see out of one eye, allowing her to find her way around Manchester, N.H.
For years, the contours of her new face have swollen in rejection episodes that doctors successfully treated. But now, at 51 years old, with blood vessels cut off and her facial tissue darkening and dying, Tarleton’s immune system is fully rejecting her face.
That has forced her to confront two arduous possibilities: Receive another new face, or if her tissue rapidly fails, undergo reconstruction of her original face — and return to her disfigurement she left behind six years ago.
“We all know we are in uncharted waters,” she told the Boston Globe. “I would rather not have to go through a catastrophic failure.’’
Transplanted organs, like kidneys, hearts and lungs, typically have a limited life span in their new bodies. But doctors caution that the field of face transplants is still experimental, with no long-term studies or risk assessments to guide surgeons in a procedure only conducted about 40 times worldwide ...